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Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 365

The only way to fix this problem is by taxing the products when they enter the country.

Except we have treaties that forbid us from doing that. If we violate trade agreements, other countries will retaliate, and the world economy will spiral downward. For an example of this scenario actually happening, Google for "The Great Depression".

It's ridiculous to allow corporations to hide billions overseas.

It is ridiculous for America to tax profits on a product made in England and sold in France. It is ridiculous to have absurd tax laws that encourage companies to move jobs overseas. We should tax domestic sales, or domestic revenue, or domestic payrolls, or even domestic profits. But instead we tax worldwide profits, of only companies domiciled in America, giving them a huge incentive to go elsewhere. No other country has a tax like that. It is economic self-sabotage.

No, that's the price these companies need to pay if they want to enjoy the strongest IP laws in the world. If they want to have HQ in China or India, let them. Viagra is about $25 a pill here in the US, because Pfizer has patents and strong laws to back it up. The same pill is about 30 cents in India. Some of that is due to "what the market will bear" and some is probably due to inflation caused by most patients having no idea what a drug actually costs. But India's policy on drug patents (they don't recognize them as valid) has quite a lot to do with it also.

Comment Re:I have an idea (Score 3, Informative) 594

This a million times over. The three most recent examples being South Korea, Japan and Germany. In all instances we are still there more than half a century later. Well OK I am British so we are not technically in South Korea or Japan these days, but we still have bases in Germany 70 years later.

That only works if the host nation is willing to be your buddy and ally. In the middle east, everybody hates each other. They hate the USA too, to a slightly smaller extent. Any politician in that region can score political points by pot-shotting the US, and bringing the various groups together in their shared distain for the USA. If you're a politician in a country that has serious issues, you'd be foolish to not try deflecting blame and anger at an overseas country. It works 90% of the time. Keep in mind that many of the borders in the middle east were drawn not based on culture or religious differences, or around old and established borders. They were drawn up after the end of WWI by France and the UK with a ruler.

The only reason we got away with it in Japan and Germany was because both countries were completely and utterly destroyed. The remaining leaders could take the carrot and play ball, resign, or refuse to play ball and be forcibly removed and/or accused of war crimes. There was not much choice.

Korea was a completely different situation. The Korean war has not officially ended, so being best buddies with the #1 military power in the world made sense, and still makes sense, no matter the cost.

Given that there are several wealthy countries in the middle east waging proxy wars for their own selfish reasons, sectarian civil wars, the whole "new cold war" dynamic shaping up, plus widespread terrorism against basically any kind of target, civilian or military, a Japan/Germany style occupation can not work in the middle east. It probably never could.

Comment Re:WTF is with the US utility tie-in? (Score 1) 156

>> Defending the power grid in the United States

WTF is with the US utility tie-in? Did California declare war on Nevada overnight? Is the South risin' again?

The problem here is that there's a low-grade civil war brewing in Crimea after Russia's invasion. Wake me up when/if the US has a similar problem. Zzzzzz....

It's an odd tie-in, but the point that the US has this kind of vulnerability is valid. Especially in the Southwest. California's environmental regulations are so strict that it is easier to build a power station just on the Utah border and then run the power line all the way to Los Angeles. Arizona has similar issues, where the power plants are in the north of the state, but supply power to the cities. In Arizona's case, they depend on that power for pumping water also. You would not have to sever many lines to create real and serious problems. The difficulty would be in severing them in a way which could not be repaired quickly.

Comment Re:Internet News (Score 1) 181

When controversies in curling become news, ...

There are more important things. Like the behavior of professional bowlers. I mean those guys make footballers look like school girls.

And let's get into the problems in the Gin Rummy and Bridge communities. I mean come on! There are more important things to talk about!

Curling is an interesting sport because the physical fitness requirements aren't terribly rigorous. Anyone who can lift/push 40 pounds or sweep a broom continuously for about 60 seconds can play. That's a very low bar compared to other sports. It is much more of a game of skill and teamwork than a game of pure athleticism. That means that players can continue playing competitively into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. It's refreshing to watch a game where some players have decades of experience. You don't see that in most other sports where ~30 can be a common retirement age.

Comment Re:Looking forwards (Score 3, Insightful) 181

I find it hard to decide whether banning human assistive technology in sport is a good thing.

My issue with this stuff is it's all so arbitrary. Hockey players aren't forced to use sticks improvised from re-used household materials. Tennis rackets aren't reduced to whatever hardcover books the players can find laying around. Swimmers aren't required to don industry-standard street-wear. No. Organized sports allow their participants and technology to optimize... until suddenly they don't. The argument is usually "we want a level playing field", but that's still rubbish. Somali kids don't have access to the carbon-fiber gear kids in the US have. Even access to health-care and nutrition isn't balanced world-wide. When athletes are required to be raised from infants on the borderline-sufficient foods that some people live on, then we can call things "fair". Until then, I don't see a meaningful difference between steroid-use and nutritionally-balanced breakfasts, between cutting-edge broom-heads and custom-fit swimsuits. These gentleman's agreements are bunk, making the very idea of sports competitions a joke. These are not the best of the best, they're the best of what they feel like allowing - for now.

That's completely fine. Don't forget that sports are just games. The rules of the game don't matter, as long as the rules are the same for everybody. Rules are often, and perhaps are unavoidably, arbitrary. I don't see a problem with that. Many rules in sports are arbitrary. Some rules arbitrarily try to make the game more exciting. Some rules draw a line on a level of risk to the players or spectators at some arbitrary point and prohibit dangerous behavior. Some rules arbitrarily try to ensure that the "rightful winner" should always win. As long as the rules are set and made known to all players well in advance, I have a hard time feeling any outrage, no matter how arbitrary the rules are.

Comment Re:NYC taxi system could DESTROY uber (Score 1) 210

I've been stranded waiting for a taxi. The taxi that was sent never made it. This happens about 50% of the time for a pickup where hailing is common, and never in locations where hailing isn't common. Taxis are allowed to take a hail while going to a dispatched call. If the dispatched call is too short of a distance, they'll try to get out of it. An airport fare is much better than a shorter in town fare. That you think it shouldn't happen isn't proof that it doesn't. Uber doesn't steal from taxis. People hail taxis. People dispatch Uber. Dispatched cars in NYC don't need medallions. They are private cars.

Uber drivers play all sorts of games with canceling fares which are too short or not "ideal" for them. And Uber's real-time map is a lie, which is obvious in several places that I have tried it. At least the taxi companies are regulated so there are complaint channels and potential consequences. With Uber you're relying on a sleazy company to police themselves.

Comment Re:NYC taxi system could DESTROY uber (Score 1) 210

Given that this is specifically about NYC, which I've done a bit of study on, it's actually worse than you say.

Similar story here. The Taxi plate was up to about $400k prior to Uber, but this was driven by a corrupt industry that invested huge dollars in lobbying to keep the plate pool deliberately small. Technology has made the whole concept of taxi plates obsolete. It was a form of regulation to try and keep some sanity in an era where there zero surveillance or tracking. These days with electronic driving records, insurance histories, GPS, and camera in everyone's hand, there is simply no need for such outdated monopolies.

Clearly you have never been to a place with too many taxis. Having too many taxis is a drag on society as empty taxis occupy valuable space on the roads, take up parking spaces on the sides of streets, and add unnecessary pollution and noise.

The medallion system is a market-based system that tried to solve that problem. Do you have an idea that might work better? The problem of "too many taxis" may not exist for your city now, but if the market was completely opened up it could become a major problem very fast. Good luck trying to close the barn door at that point.

Comment Re:This is great (Score 1) 73

A similar idea is to use electric vehicles in people's garages to "time shift" demand. Nevada Power (and I'm sure others) offers a rate plan for EV owners where power is much cheaper after 11pm and more expensive in the afternoons. Cars can already be set to start to wait until a set time to begin charging.

Power companies spend a lot of money building "peaker" power plants that are only needed between 4pm and 7pm. Theoretically, when a power company hits its supply limit, it could put a call out to any EV currently plugged in saying "I'll pay 6 cents per kWh for what's in your battery". If they don't get as much power as they need, they would put out another request at 7 cents. If you paid 4 cents the previous night, that's a good deal for everyone. The car would be set up with rules about what price you want and how much power you're willing to part with.

If I had an electric car, there is no way in hell that I would take that deal. Intentionally increasing the charge/discharge cycles of my $x0,000 car battery to at least double the normal usage to make a few pennies is incredibly foolish.

Comment Re:Typical Liberal Thinking (Score 2) 109

Read the bloody article.

The first hint that this isn't purely about "liberal demoncrap" is that it is filed under business, not environment. The second hint is that they're talking about aging plants that won't be shut down if they are upgraded with carbon capture. It is also possible that other upgrades or maintenance is necessary, but unmentioned. In other words, cost is a factor here. The third hint are mentions of economic and political issues, such as energy security.

There are other subtle (as in subtle as being hit by a sledgehammer) issues being mentioned, none of which indicate that environmental considerations are secondary issues.

There are two big problems with your argument-

1. Nobody has demonstrated carbon capture using the full exhaust stream. Typically they extract carbon from only 1 to 10% of the exhaust gasses. The reason is because the amount of carbon is large, and the parasitic losses from even a partial treatment system make the plant uneconomical. These projects are just good enough to attract government subsidies and grants. A full scale system would never be economically viable in most countries.

2. Nobody is going to install such a system on an old coal plant without a fat government subsidy. The economics aren't viable, especially given that the government may change their mind in 5 years.

Killing coal like this is like saying "all girls on the cheerleading team must be slim and petite". It sounds like a great idea until you need to make a pyramid.

Comment Re:Why Not Vocational? (Score 1) 393

"Everyone" says you'll go nowhere without a college degree. But guess what? This is neither what many kids want nor society needs.

Vocational schools need to amp up the sales pitch. Machinists of the Tools and Die variety make 40$ and 50$ an hour, and that ain't bad.

Some people just are not interested in the 4 year menu.

Some don't need to amp up the sales pitch. All the technical schools I know [Houston area, welding / aircraft technology / millwright type programs] are full and have acceptance rates of ~25%. That's more exclusive than the university I went to. They can afford to be very picky also, rejecting anyone who has a criminal record, and expelling anyone or who shows up late (even 5 minutes late) 3 times within one semester. They don't have a problem finding students. Their students don't have problems finding jobs. They don't have a problem finding companies to donate training equipment either, in exchange for that company getting first dibs on their students.

In other parts of the country, maybe these are problems. But in my industry, in Houston, technical schools are constrained more by capacity than anything else. Maybe this will all come crashing down as the oil crisis drags on. Maybe it won't. One thing to keep in mind though is that with the competition for welders and technicians like it is, the welders and technicians have power. I am a white collar worker in a Houston manufacturing shop. You can't have a manufacturing shop in Houston without AC. Nobody will work there. You can't have a disagreeable foreman. Nobody will work for them over the long term. Companies are being forced to build up loyalty through good treatment of their workers. If you want the good workers, you have to be a good company too. A paycheck alone is not enough in this town.

We might very well have too many college grads. I think we do. We should be careful not to tilt the rudder too far in the other direction, however. Labor markets are like a slow-turning supertanker, results don't appear until long after the rudder has been turned. We've all seen, and are still seeing, the results of the "we need more IT workers!" movement. Too many workers in a given industry creates just as many problems as too few.

Comment Re:huge waste of resources (Score 1) 252

I have a full spectrum lamp. Not one of the really expensive ones but not a cheap one. I find it helps. I've a sleep disorder (insomnia) and end up being awake at nights and mostly sleeping during every other day or so. The light seems to have improved my mood the times when I've remembered to use it. I don't know if it has any health benefits but I'm less prone to the mild-depression that seems to come with the shorter days. For the curious, when home, I'm a little about the 45th.

Be real careful with those. My mother developed skin cancer on her nose after about 2 years of using light therapy a few days a week in the winter. It is impossible to say if the light caused it, or if her skin cancer was related to previous damage. But the timing was very suspicious.

You still get the psychological benefits from light therapy if you put on sunscreen. An Australian study that’s often cited showed no difference in vitamin D between adults randomly assigned to use sunscreen one summer and those assigned a placebo cream.

Comment Re:If these senators really wanted to help... (Score 1) 108

This. I'd like to see Congress adopt some sort of revision control system. Wanna modify a bill? Check it out, make your change, check it in. Lotsa changes? Branch it. Every commit has somebody's name on it, no more "gee, I dunno how that got in there" BS.

That wouldn't work either. Senior congresspeople bully their juniors all the time into doing their dirty work. Want someone to support you in getting on the XYZ committee? You better sneak their pork into the "must-pass" bill for them. Etc. It's all power and influence behind the scenes.

Comment Re:In Portugal "Engineer" is a regulated professio (Score 2) 568

It isn't a money grab. The PE test in the USA is very difficult. Most engineers can't pass it. I studied about 6 hours a week for an entire year, and while I passed, I wasn't sure I was going to. The only book lookups I did were related to data table lookup, not "how to solve this problem". I calculated as fast as I could, wrote furiously for 8 hours, and still ran out of time and had to leave some questions unanswered. It's a hard test.

The PE test proves 2 things- the person holding it probably knows what they are doing in their field of expertise, and they have the dedication to work on a long-term project that doesn't show immediate results. Anybody can flub their way through college, and college difficulty varies by school and even by professor. The PE test is the same for everybody (in a given subject). There are many useless pieces of paper available to an engineer, but the PE is not one of them.

The PE in other countries does differ, and some may be money grabs. The USA PE is not.

Comment Re:Don't answer your phone (Score 4, Interesting) 216

Yes, they do. We get a message at least weekly for the former residents of our house, trying to collect various debts. Note, I've lived there over 9 years and we still get those calls. It's basically harassment, but there isn't much I can do because it's a bunch of different debt collectors, rather than just one company.

You can prepare a standard form letter and send it to every debt collector which calls. You can use this one-

I am writing in response to your letter or phone call dated (DATE). I do not believe that I owe this debt or what you say I owe.

Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Section 809(b), Validating Debts:
“If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.”

I respectfully request that you provide me with the following:
1. The amount of the debt;
2. The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
3. Verification or copy of any judgment (if applicable);
4. Proof that you are licensed to collect debts in the state of [STATE] 5. Proof of the last payment made on the account.

I am asserting my rights under the federal and state Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, including these rights:
Because I have disputed this debt in writing within 30 days of receipt of your initial notice, you must obtain verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment against me and mail these items to me at your expense.
You cannot add interest or fees except those allowed by the original contract or state law.
Any attempt to collect this debt without validating it violates the FDCPA.

Also be advised that I am keeping accurate records of all correspondence from you and your company, including recording all phone calls, and I will not hesitate to report violations of the law to my State Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

I have disputed this debt. Therefore, until it is validated, your information concerning this debt is assumed to be inaccurate. Accordingly, if you have already reported this debt to any credit-reporting agency (CRA) or Credit Bureau (CB), then you must immediately inform them of my dispute with this debt. Reporting information that you know to be inaccurate or failing to report information correctly violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act 1681s-2. Should you pursue a judgment without validating this debt, I will inform the judge and request that the case be dismissed based on your failure to comply with the FDCPA.

Finally, if you do not own this debt, I demand that you immediately send a copy of this dispute letter to the original creditor so they are also aware that I dispute the debt.

[Your Name]

If they contact you again after receiving such a letter, even once, you can sue them. Up to $1000 per incident. Plus they would have to pay big fines $50-100k to the government as well. It's enough of a deterrent that I have never been contacted again after sending such a letter.

Comment Re:Math (Score 1) 492

>> 90% of my after-tax income, and throwing that in student loans...$22,434 worth of student loans, and has paid it down to $16,449...four months

That's only $1,500 paid down on student loans per month. If that's 90% of his after-tax income (even in California), he's making maybe $22K/year, and spending just $150 month on other stuff.

Yeah, something doesn't make sense. I owed slightly more than him at the start and could have paid it off in a couple years if I was willing to throw $1000/month at them rather than the minimum of $300-something.

According to his blog-

"I'll be investing approximately 95% of all of my post-tax, post-401k, post-benefits income"

. Depending on what rate he has on his student loans, it is very possible that he decided he should max out his 401k, pay down his truck loan, or invest the money. I dragged out my college loans for a very long time because at the end, the rate was 0% (several years of cumulative 0.25% rate decreases for always paying on time). It would have been stupid to pay it off sooner. Maybe he paid attention in accounting 101.

"Everybody is talking about the weather but nobody does anything about it." -- Mark Twain